You’re company is thriving and you’ve mapped out aggressive growth and expansion plans. At the same time, you are at a point where you can no longer do it yourself, or with your small team. It’s time to hire.
So, what should you look for in the ideal job candidate and how do you manage it on your tight staffing budget?
Whether you know it or not, when you started your business you also began creating your company culture. And with every employee you hire, that culture can either be reinforced or redefined.
Hiring Your First Employees
When I co-founded Edible Arrangements with my brother we had non-existent labor budgets. Every employee we hired had to be an extension of my brother and me. So, we hired for personality and potential—and it paid off.
Here are a few tips on how we approached hiring new employees—what we looked for—when we first started our business . . . back at the very beginning:
A Few Years Experience
You’ll want to hire someone with a few years of experience that’s applicable to the position you’re looking to fill. In some instances, you just need to make sure the candidate has been in an office environment and understands business basics. If you need specific skills, look for someone who is emerging in that area. It’s beneficial to hire a team member who can be molded along with the company. When you interview, ask for examples of successfully managing projects, multitasking and how they’ve payed close attention to even the smallest of details.
Passion and Energy
For startups, sometimes passion and energy are even more important than direct experience. These are two ingredients that are essential to any emerging company’s success. There’s no perfect test for these characteristics, but you’ll either notice them or you won’t. If you can’t get a good read, ask for examples of a project they’ve worked on that they’re most passionate about and why. Then ask if they’re passionate to be on your team and why. It’s hard to fake real passion and energy.
Excellent Communication Skills
It doesn’t matter what position you’re hiring for, in this day and age, strong written and verbal communications skills are almost always essential. Require each candidate submit a cover letter sharing why they are the right fit for the role. You’ll be surprised at how many people don’t even read the job description and skip this step. This is a signal that you should skip over them too. After a successful interview you can request they re-write a page of your website or any other sales and marketing materials. It’s good to see their skills in action.
Look for someone who has been in a startup role or has been in a position that requires flexibility and a go with the flow, all hands on deck mentality. This is absolutely essential in a startup where roles and responsibilities are going to change, sometimes daily. Ask about the organizational structure in their last job. Get clear examples of when they worked autonomously on an assignment. In your startup, you need someone who can take a project and run with it; and you should communicate this openly during the interview.
Passing the Stress Test
Regardless of how passionate and energetic an employee is, startups are stressful. You need to get an idea of how the candidate reacts to stress and a great way to do that is by asking how you will know if they are stressed at work.
Use the interview experience to get to know each other better. Treat it like a conversation and in the end, ask yourself if they would pass the airport test (i.e. would you want to be stuck in the airport with this person). If your answer is no, they are probably not going to help you take your company to the next level.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kamran Farid is the co-founder and former Chief Operating Officer of Edible Arrangements® International, the creators of fresh fruit bouquets and fruit hand dipped in gourmet chocolate. Over fifteen years he was instrumental in growing the brand from one store in East Haven, Connecticut to over 1,300 stores in 14 countries and counting. Farid has a depth of expertise in building a brand from infancy into a global powerhouse. His newest venture, Kamran Capital Group, aims to help small businesses grow smarter. Connect with @kamranf on Twitter.